Spring Song had two practice sessions with Dominique’s small two-horse trailer in preparation for the trip to Orangeville Sunday July 27, 2014 where there was a show. The goal was to place her in a stall and let her absorb life at a show. IF she was handling this well, then we just might put her in a Western walk/jog class. If that went well she’d go into a beginning Western trail class.
The first trailering session included loading, closing the rear door and leaving her to eat hay. She was not concerned and loaded instantly. The second practice session included loading, closing up the rear and taking her for a ten minute ride. She didn’t load instantly on the first walk up to the trailer. She did load easily when she saw her breakfast taken into the trailer. She was not upset by her short ride and quietly unloaded when we got back to the farm.
At 6:15 Sunday morning July 27 Bill and Dominique were loading the horses for the show in Orangeville. At 7:15 Dominique had Skippy on the trailer, but Spring Song wouldn’t have anything to do with it. Dominique had students waiting for her in Orangeville and had to leave. Spring Song was put in a stall in the upper barn to think about life instead of instantly turning her out in the paddock with her friends, essentially rewarding her for not listening to her humans.
During her morning non-loading session Spring Song was never upset, didn’t break into a sweat.
I do night feed around 10:30 P.M. so I was not involved with the early morning trailer loading. Bill told me that Spring Song was not on her way to the show when he came back to the house at 7:30.
I contacted Sue Parker to learn if she had any suggestions for getting Spring Song to the show. She did. At 10:30 Kevin arrived with a very horse-friendly trailer (probably nicer than a stall in a barn) and we commenced trying to load Spring Song.
An hour later Spring Song was on the trailer. She did not get upset. She did not break into a sweat. She figured she could wait out these humans and get back to her friends in the paddock.
The session started with Spring Song happily walking with me towards the trailer. She got a foot or two on it, but that was it. She started dreaming up evasions, moving around the ramp to the right, to the left.
An interesting note: Friday evening in a lesson with Alex Reinfels he was holding Spring Song and I brought Zelador into the arena to demonstrate different games. One of them was: step up onto the tall pedestal. It’s 18” high and three feet square on top. Zelador is the only horse on the farm that does this “trick”. We took him back to the barn and worked with the filly. We asked Spring Song to step up onto the tall pedestal with all four feet. She did, twice.
Back to the Sunday morning extravaganza. Kevin, Bill, Cassie, Irene and I were all on hand to help.
At one point we asked Zelador to walk on. He did. Spring Song was close behind him. The two horses were asked to walk up the ramp at the rear of the trailer. The problem with Kevin’s trailer is the second exit is through a small door at the front of the “stall” he’s just walked into, then a turn to the right through a smaller stall and finally down a steep ramp at the side of the trailer. Amazingly Zelador was able to get through the door! He did walk off by himself and instantly stop to eat grass. No problems with this loose horse!
If the set-up had been big stall to big stall Spring Song probably would have followed Zelador into the trailer. But that wouldn’t have addressed the issue of “listen to your humans, they aren’t trying to hurt you!” I finally understood the term “spoiled horse”. I never “got it” in the past. My interpretation now of a spoiled horse is: the horse is presented with something it can do and decides it won’t do it. Accidentally I prepared to get through a spoiled horse problem the day before when riding. Spring Song thought we were done and I asked for another walk around the arena. She protested and I calmly accomplished the walk around the arena.
We got out Kye to lead Spring Song in. He is much smaller than Zelador and would actually fit easily in the second smaller stall. Bill fetched him and Kye stopped ten feet from the trailer. I took him, led him on the trailer and out the other door. I repeated this and he bolted backwards, down the ramp. I couldn’t see exactly what happened, but I’m guessing he crashed into Spring Song who happily moved further away from the trailer.
At some point Kevin asked if he could put a chain over Spring Song’s nose. That was OK with me.
At another point I introduced the Spanish Walk and Spring Song performed this movement getting her front feet on the ramp.
Finally I remembered clicker training. Kevin didn’t know a lot about it, but mentioned he’d heard Rick Parker talk about Clicker Training. Kevin went to the front of the truck to make a phone call. I went to the barn to fetch additional treats. Irene and Cassie were long gone. I got her front feet on using Clicker Training and the Spanish Walk. We needed more treats!!!! Bill was left standing in the trailer holding the lead line and Spring Song had her two front feet on the ramp. In the 60 seconds it took to fetch the treats Bill had Spring Song totally in the trailer. He said, “When everyone left she listened to me and walked into the trailer. Guess we just need to keep trying different things.”
I found Kevin and told him Spring Song was ON. He was actually a bit stunned! He said, “Good job, Winnie.” I explained that Bill was a big part of the success. Bill and Kevin took Spring Song for a trailer ride. This first loading took about an hour. They returned. The second loading took 15 minutes. The third and fourth tries took five minutes. Kevin said he could leave the trailer here for a few days so we could get some practice time with Spring Song. He moved the trailer off the driveway and under the trees between Kye’s and Pax’s paddocks. The next load took two minutes. The next one took 30 seconds. The next one she loaded herself. During all these sessions we unloaded with her different ways. Sometimes we turned her and she walked off head first, other times we backed her off.
Bill loaded her a few times. Then we decided to load her from the side door. This ramp is steeper and the room inside smaller. Bill was leading her and she went up instantly, stood in there quietly and came out quietly. I took the lead line and also led her onto and off of the side ramp.
Back to the paddock for Spring Song. An hour or so later I fetched her and we practiced loading again. Back to the paddock. I fetched her again. She loaded instantly. Back to the paddock. Dominique returned from the show with the small two-horse trailer. I fetched Spring Song and loaded her in Kevin’s trailer, then brought her to the little one. Spring Song stopped. Within ten minutes she was on the little trailer. I used the Spanish Walk and the clicker. I backed her off. She did this quietly. I loaded and unloaded her (treats to eat out of the bucket when in the trailer) about fifteen times. Dominique came to see and was very pleased.
Dominique took the small trailer home. She’s planning on bringing it back to the farm and when she does Spring Song will get in some more practice sessions. Meanwhile I’ll use Kevin’s trailer while it’s still here.
There’s a show this coming weekend with Cowboy Dressage. That’s our next outing!
During all of the above Spring Song never got upset, never sweated. She Spanish Walked a gazillion times!!!!! Kevin mentioned several times, “She’s a smart horse.” Of course I much prefer it when Spring Song uses her intelligence for doing GOOD things!